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IRC: A How-to for First-timers

For the first-timer, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) can be somewhat intimidating. The following recipe may help you over the hurdles. If you manage to reach GatorLUG chat, someone there should be able to help further smooth out any bumps.

Although Pidgin (formerly known as GAIM), XChat, and a host of other programs provide a similar facility, this recipe focuses on ChatZilla, a Firefox addon. You're running Firefox anyway, right?

I used Firefox V2.0.0.5, so next week there will be subtle differences, but try to muddle through. There are 18 steps, so this is barely feasible for mere human beings.

  1. Install Firefox and surf back to this page (
  2. In Firefox, go to the Chatzilla page on
  3. Scroll down and click Install Now.
  4. Read the warnings about "unsigned code", but ignore them.
  5. Click Install Now or Install or whatever it is this week.
  6. After installation completes, click Restart Firefox to activate Chatzilla.
  7. After Firefox restarts, select View -> Toolbars -> Customize....
  8. Scroll to find the cZ/ChatZilla icon, drag and drop it from the dialog onto either the menu bar, the tool bar or the bookmark bar. (Your choice! [1])
  9. Click Done to close the dialog.
  10. Click the icon to start the ChatZilla client.
  11. From the Available networks, click freenode.
  12. Ignore all threatening messages about registering your nickname.
  13. In the lower text box, type /j #gatorlug and press Enter [2].
  14. Ignore any further threats about "registering your nick(name)" [3], [4].
  15. Enter your messages into the text box and press Enter to send them.
  16. To leave #gatorlug, type /part in the text box and press Enter.
  17. To disconnect from the freenode server, type /disconnect and press Enter.
  18. To stop ChatZilla, type /quit, and press Enter.

[1] You can skip steps 7 and 8 and start ChatZilla from the Tools menu.
[2] IRC commands are prefixed with /, chatrooms (known as "channels" in IRC) with #. /j is short for /join.
[3] You'll want to register your nickname so no one else can use it, but that's beyond the scope of this recipe.
[4] Steps 11-14 can be automated by clicky-clicky mojo on ChatZilla -> Preferences..., but that is beyond the scope of this document.

Tutorial by Jim Wilson, merely posted by Nile.

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How about some guidelines for proper etiquette?

I know from my little experience using IRC[1] that there are some rules that you should follow when chatting on IRC if you do not want to look like a zit-faced 13 year old...

Some guidelines that I highly recommend are located on the #linux website for the Undernet community:

Now, a number of the guidelines listed in that webpage above are not necessarily applicable in all situations, but I do find it is always a good idea to sit in a channel[2] for a while and just observe to see how things are handled in the channel. However, this is probably not advisable in the #gatorlug channel on the Freenode network as the chat volume on there is not very high. In that case, blurt out your question or comment or whatever and see what kind of response you get. Be aware as well that in that channel I have seen responses take days to actually occur, because some of us have really long buffers on our chat windows and we will go back and read everything that has occurred in the last couple of days if we have been away. Yes, it's interactive, but sometimes there is a really high latency. :)

Another web page of note is the excellent article by Eric Raymond entitled How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

1. By little, I mean that I started using IRC in the spring of 1991 on the VAX system in CIRCA.
2. It is a channel, not a "room". AOL is evil for coming up with this terminology.

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